Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
As a second Kickstarter campaign winds down for Sullivan’s Sluggers, this time to help cover international shipping costs for the oversized hardcover, artist James Stokoe has spoken out against the effort and requested that his name be removed from the graphic novel. Writer Mark Andrew Smith quickly responded with a statement to ROBOT 6.
Although the baseball-horror comic was originally solicited through Image, Smith turned to Kickstarter in May 2012 and surpassed his original $6,000 goal by a staggering $91,626, leading to the book’s metamorphosis into a “200-page Deluxe Omnibus-Sized Hardcover.” That success brought with it a little controversy, however, as Smith drew criticism for his decision to also offer the “Kickstarter-exclusive” Sullivan’s Sluggers through Amazon.com and other outlets. The growth of the graphic novel to 3.5 pounds also led to a miscalculation in shipping rates, sending Smith back to the Kickstarter well last month (that effort has generated $5,265 in pledges to date).
But on Wednesday, Stokoe took to his blog to distance himself from both Kickstarter campaigns, saying, “the writer and myself had briefly talked about working together on the KS, but due to some disagreements, I decided to remove myself from it completely.”
Writer Mark Andrew Smith has penchant for getting young heroes into trouble. He did it in 2005 with The Amazing Joy Buzzards, and again in 2009 with The New Brighton Archeological Society. In 2011, he expanded on that by casting a group of kids as villains-in-training for his Image series Gladstone’s School for World Conquerors. But after that title went on hiatus at the end of last year, readers didn’t know where, how or if that story would continue.
But after talking to Smith earlier this week, we can confirm there’s more … lots more.
– Mark Andrew Smith, writer of Sullivan’s Sluggers and Gladstone’s School for World Conquerors, challenging the vocabulary we use to refer to comics not published by Marvel or DC. It’s not a new notion that “independent” isn’t the best way to describe a comic; is Powers not “independent” just because Marvel publishes it? Is G.I. Joe or Star Wars independent because they don’t have a Marvel or DC logo on the cover? I like the notion of using terms like “creator-owned” and “creator-driven,” although I don’t see them as interchangeable. Creator-driven, for instance, could be any book that was “driven” by the team that created it; so Starman and The Sandman could fall into that category as easily as, say, Bone. But Bone obviously is creator-owned while those other two are not. Then there are books like Prophet and Haunt that are owned by creators, just not the creators currently “driving” those titles. Navigating, maybe, but not driving. Obviously there’s always room for debate on the internet and the shared lexicon we use is always open to it, but it’s hard to argue with Smith’s sentiment at the end.
Happy Memorial Day, Americans, and welcome to another edition of What Are You Reading? Our special guest today is Mark Andrew Smith, writer of Gladstone’s School for World Conquerors, Amazing Joy Buzzards, The New Brighton Archeological Society and Sullivan’s Sluggers, which is currently available to order via Kickstarter.
To see what Mark and the Robot 6 crew have been reading lately, click below.
It’s been a while since anyone last issued an honest-to-goodness comics declaration, something Gladstone’s School For World Conquerors writer Mark Andrew Smith remedied this morning with the delivery of “The A to B Manifesto,” which challenges the current distribution system for (creator-owned) comics, which a characterizes as an upside-down pyramid “with the creators at the very bottom”:
In this upside down pyramid the creators are the last ones allowed to recoup from their work and they get the leftovers or scraps after everyone else is finished. (If there is anything left for them.)
The creators are the people who put in all of the time and energy into the very product that’s being sold. Even if you heavily promote your book, you’re doing it to make other people money.
It’s something Smith touched upon in his interview with Robot 6 about turning to Kickstarter to fund Sullivan’s Sluggers, the baseball-horror graphic novel he created with James Stokoe: “The Kickstarter model has room for publishers and also room for retailers. Comics are small right now and this is growth, and it helps the creators ,who should be at the top of the pyramid but are actually almost under it, to actually benefit and be rewarded for their labors.”
Mark Andrew Smith certainly isn’t heeding the advice on this sign from Sullivan’s Sluggers, his upcoming baseball-horror graphic novel with James Stokoe. As we noticed last week, the writer is moving forward and scouting out new territory in comics distribution through Kickstarter.
After that post appeared, I was reminded that Sullivan’s Sluggers was originally solicited a couple of years ago by Image Comics, so I asked Smith about that as well as his extremely successful use of Kickstarter. As I’m writing this, Smith and Stokoe’s book has raised more than $40,000 in pledges. Their original goal was $6,000, and there are still 24 days to go.
Michael May: Sullivan’s Sluggers was originally solicited through Image. What can you say about why it’s not being published there now?
Mark Andrew Smith: We know how many copies of Sullivan’s Sluggers retailers ordered. We were going to end up working for four years to make the book (working for free) and end up losing a lot of money to do it. Sullivan’s Sluggers through Kickstarter made more business sense, and selling direct from the creators to the readers. So it was a matter of stay put and don’t rock the boat or take a risk for once and change everything.
We chose the second option and I wouldn’t go back, not in a million years.
Mark Andrew Smith (Gladstone’s School for World Conquerors) and James Stokoe (Orc Stain) have been working on their baseball-horror graphic novel Sullivan’s Sluggers for a couple of years and it’s finally ready to go into production.
Rather than going through a traditional publisher, however, the creators are taking advantage of Kickstarter to distribute the book directly to readers. That’s different from the trend that Chris Arrant recently pointed out in which Kickstarter campaigns sometimes lead to traditional publishing deals. Instead, Smith and Stokoe are offering Sullivan’s Sluggers exclusively to Kickstarter supporters.
Prices start at $10 for a PDF copy, but a $30 pledge will get you the PDF and a copy of the 200-page, full-color hardcover. Other pledge brackets include T-shirts and multiple copies of the book.
Smith describes the plot this way:
Publishing | Number-crunching the direct-market charts, John Jackson Miller determines that sales of comics ranking in Diamond’s Top 300 increased by more than 3 million copies in 2011, bringing the total to 72.13 million. Dollar sales, too, rose by nearly $3 million, even as the average price of comic dropped by about a dime, from $3.58 to $3.49. [The Comichron]
Creators | Artist Fiona Staples has responded to Dave Dorman’s objection to her cover for Saga #1, which shows a woman breastfeeding an infant: “I find it a little hard to fathom why anyone would object to a depiction of breastfeeding, even if it were on a kids’ comic, which it isn’t. I have yet to hear a line of reasoning that makes sense to me. That said, anyone who wants to be grossed out by our comic is of course free to do so. I’m just going to fixate on the part where a master painter called me a ‘gifted artist.'” [ComicsAlliance]
Gladstone’s School for World Conquerors does for super villains what Harry Potter did for magicians—throws them together into an elite boarding school and lets the dynamics of the schoolyard take over, with a bit of intervention from the adults. The first six-issue arc, published by Image, was very well received, and writer Mark Andrew Smith announced yesterday that the next six-issue series, Gladstone’s School for World Conquerors: The Battle of the Superhero Archives, has been written and the first three issues are drawn. Artist Matthew Weldon, who illustrated Smith’s The New Brighton Archeological Society, is taking over the art chores from Armand Villavert for this arc.
Smith isn’t letting any grass grow under his feet: “I’m starting writing on series three and hope that the third series can be drawn while the second one is being created,” he writes. It’s worth noting that Gladstone actually was published on a monthly schedule; the fact that Smith works with a generous buffer may have a lot to do with that.
A couple of weeks ago, I got to thinking about the holidays and comics. More exactly, I started wondering what some creators might say if i asked them for their favorite comics-related memory. As I got into contact with some creators, they did not have a favorite story per se, but those recollections were definitely memorable. Bottom line, these storytellers not surprisingly had some great stories to share. My holiday memory is an odd one, as a kid in the 1970s reading the Doonesbury comic strip where Rev. Scott Sloan had opening remarks before the Christmas pageant, where he noted that the part of the Baby Jesus would be played by a 40-watt light bulb. A lifelong Doonesbury fan, there are few strips that have made me laugh longer than that one. Told you it was an odd one. Now on to the storytellers with far better tales. My thanks to everyone that responded. Once you’ve read them all, please be sure to chime in with your most memorable comics-related holiday recollection in the comments section.
Every Christmas, comics would show up in my stocking. They’d be rolled up, which I’m sure breaks the heart of every collector out there, but it didn’t bother me much. Comics were for reading. For some reason, my mother thought I liked Thor. I wasn’t a Thor guy, except when he was hanging out in the Avengers. I was, and still am, a Captain America super-fan. How could my Mom not know this? But every year I’d get a couple more Thor comics.
Fast-forward 35 years. I’m the official stocking-stuffer in the household. My wife is the queen of holiday organization, but the stocking assignment has always been mine, primarily because it’s the kind of job you can give to a procrastinator. I can run out on Christmas Eve and grab everything I need: gum, iTunes gift cards, candy bars, extra batteries… and comics. See, my son is 15, and he IS a Thor guy, so I usually try to round up something Asgardian for him, as well as a something with Atomic Robo or Axe Cop. I don’t understand the clothing my daughter is asking for (an “infinity scarf” sounds like something Dr. Who would wear), but by gum, I do know my son’s taste in comics.
I’ve been friendly with Joe Keatinge dating back to his days managing PR & marketing for Image Comics. When it was revealed back in October that Extreme Studios was relaunching the line–with Keatinge writing Glory (with Ross Campbell on art), I started generating questions for an interview. In addition to discussing Glory (which relaunches with Glory #23 on February 15, 2012), Keatinge opens up about Hell Yeah (Image), his creator-owned collaboration with artist/co-creator Andre Szymanowicz that premieres on March 7, 2012, as well as another upcoming 2012 project, Brutal, in collaboration with artist Frank Cho. My thanks to Keatinge for this email interview. After reading this piece, be sure to check out CBR’s Joe Keatinge coverage for more insight into the busy writer’s upcoming work.
Tim O’Shea: Did Rob Liefeld approach you to work on the Glory relaunch? Was Ross Campbell already committed to the project when you joined?
Joe Keatinge: While Rob was certainly involved with the process, I was actually approached by Image Comics Publisher and Extreme Editor, Eric Stephenson, almost a year ago now. At the time they had nailed down the idea of the line and I believe a couple of the other books may have had writers, but it was still in the very early stages. After that was the process of giving a quick pitch, which was virtually instantaneous to Eric asking if I wanted to do it, to developing a longer pitch, to Eric and I bringing Brandon Graham on board for Prophet, to discussing Glory with Brandon, to Brandon suggesting Ross Campbell, to seeing Ross’ amazing work and me asking him if he wanted to come on board. He did a few samples which blew away both Eric and Rob. We’ve been working on it ever since.
Mark Andrew Smith has posted the first issue of Gladstone’s School for World Conquerors on his Tumblr for free. Featuring art by Armand Villavert, Gladstone’s School is an all-ages comic that has in-jokes to entertain adult comics fans and plenty of superhero action to engage the kids, so it really does work for all ages. The first volume of the collected edition came out on Wednesday.
Tumblr is an awkward platform for previews—the last page of the comic appears at the top of the site, and you have to scroll down to get to the beginning—but in this case it’s worth it because Smith has annotated the pages, so it’s bit like getting the director’s commentary.
Hello and welcome once again to What Are You Reading?, where every week we talk about the comics, books and other stuff we’ve been reading lately.
Our special guest this week is musician and comic creator Nate Powell, who you might know from his most recent graphic novel, Any Empire, or the Ignatz and Eisner Award-winning Swallow Me Whole. When he’s not creating comics, he’s hanging out at the United Nations with the likes of R.L. Stine, Ann M. Martin and other teen-fiction writers in support of What You Wish For, a collection of young adult stories and poems. Proceeds from the book will be used to fund libraries in Darfuri refugee camps in Chad.
To see what Nate and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
It’s rare that a new ongoing comic book series launches and successfully sells out the first issue, but that’s exactly what Gladstone’s School for World Conquerors (Image) accomplished last month. This Wednesday, June 15, Gladstone’s will release the second issue. In anticipation of the next issue, I caught up with the series writer/co-creator Mark Andrew Smith to discuss the educational institution “for the children of the world’s greatest super villains to learn the trade“. Once you’ve read the interview, be sure to visit fellow Robot 6’s (and very busy multi-site pundit) Brigid Alverson’s preview of issue 2 at School Library Journal’s Good Comics for Kids. My thanks to Smith for the interview.
Tim O’Shea: Everyone hopes to sell out the first issue of a project, but you all actually did. How great did that feel?
Mark Andrew Smith: I felt fortunate, and happy for both [artist] Armand [Villavert] and myself. . There are so many factors that have to come together for a book to sell out. Yes, we put an enormous amount of work into it. But without the support of Image, the retailers, media, and most importantly, everyone who bought the book, it never would have happened.
Publishing | As the fallout mounts from the revelation that former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger fathered a child more than a decade ago with a member of his household staff, plans to revive the Terminator star’s acting career have been put on hold — a move that now extends to The Governator, the comics and animation project co-developed by Stan Lee. “In light of recent events,” representatives announced last night, “A Squared Entertainment, POW, Stan Lee Comics, and Archie Comics, have chosen to not go forward with The Governator project.” However, Entertainment Weekly notes the statement was revised two hours later, putting the project “on hold.”
Unveiled in late March, on the cover of Entertainment Weekly, no less, The Governator features a semi-fictional Schwarzenegger who, after leaving the governor’s office, decides to become a superhero — complete with a secret Arnold Cave under his Brentwood home that not even his family knows about. “We’re using all the personal elements of Arnold’s life,” Lee said at the time of the announcement. “We’re using his wife [Maria Shriver]. We’re using his kids. We’re using the fact that he used to be governor.” But even before the couple’s separation became public, producers had backed off depicting Shriver and their children. [TMZ, Entertainment Weekly]